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Plug and Play: The 2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime XSE AWD

2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime SXE AWD front 3/4 view

Behold the 2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime. There have been RAV4 hybrids before, but never a RAV4 plug-in hybrid.

2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime XSE AWD PHEV badging

For the uninitiated, a hybrid is a car powered by a combination of a gasoline engine and an electric motor. The battery for the electric motor recharges itself through regenerative braking and the car's separate overall electrical system.

2021 Toyota RAV4 PRIME SXE AWD at charging station

2021 Toyota RAV4 PRIME XSE AWD charging port

A plug-in hybrid adds the ability for the car to travel a given distance (varying by make and model) on purely electric power, and that system is charged by the driver at public charging stations or at home.

In the case of the RAV4 Prime, that all-electric range is 39 miles on a charge. Then the car switches to the combination of gasoline and electricity, which is less polluting and more fuel-efficient than gasoline alone.

My daily commute is 20 miles each way. I didn't top off the charge while at work (no convenient charging station), so I charged it at home overnight, drove to work and drove back. Each day, I used gasoline only for the final mile home. I added tailpipe emissions to the environment only for the final mile home.

If I lived one mile closer to work, and only drove to and from work, I could, in theory, go indefinitely without using a drop of gasoline or putting a single particle of pollution in the air. As it is, using gasoline for only one mile a day, it would take a year and a half to drain the fuel tank.

2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime XSE AWD hood up

2021 Toyota RAV4 PRIME XSE AWD hybrid powerplant

All that is pretty compelling in itself, but Toyota, possibly having enough from 21 years of derision over slow, uninvolving Priuses (Prii?), has made the 2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime an eco-friendly hot rod. The combined horsepower of the gasoline engine and electric motor is 302. Sixty miles an hour happens from a standing start in 5.8 seconds. And driven in a typical mix of all-electric and hybrid mode, the EPA estimates the fuel economy at 94 MPGe. It's 38 both city and highway on gasoline only.

2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime XSE AWD liftgate open

2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime XSE AWD cargo area

2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime XSE AWD interior

2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime XSE AWD rear seat

2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime XSE AWD front seats

The base price for the 2021 Toyota RAV4 XSE AWD (the top-of-the-line model) is $41,425. The window sticker is at the end of this review so you can see for yourself, but among the standard equipment highlights at that price are Toyota's Safety Sense suite of driving aids including dynamic radar cruise control, lane departure alert, steering assist, automatic high beams and road sign assist, a power tilt/slide moonroof, 19-inch alloy wheels, dual-zone climate control and a six-speaker touchscreen audio system.

2021 Toyota RAV 4 Prime XSE AWD instrument panel

2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime XSE AWD gauge cluster

2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime XSE AWD infotainment and HVAC

Our tester also had extra-cost upgrades including $1,620 for an 11-speaker JBL Premium audio system, $375 for the Weather Package (heated leather-trimmed steering wheel and rain-sensing wipers with de-icer function), $425 for the Supersonic Red/Black paint, $3,765 for the Premium Package (10-inch color head-up display, panoramic glass roof and more---see window sticker below), $129 for mud guards, $314 for roof rack cross bars, $269 for carpeted floor mats and a cargo mat, $69 for a rear bumper applique' and $65 for wheel locks.

2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime XSE AWD front view

2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime XSE AWD side view

2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime XSE AWD rear view

If you're thinking that must all add up, you're right. With $1,120 delivery processing and handling fee, the as-tested price for our 2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime XSE AWD is $49,577.

Yep, that's right---very nearly 50 grand. It was only a year ago that I reviewed the first compact SUV to top $40,000---the 2019 Toyota RAV4 Adventure. Yes, this one will save you gasoline and help save the planet and has 100 horsepower more than that one, but damn.

I like the RAV4 Prime. It's one heck of an achievement. It's awesome. But we'll see if it's held back by its price tag.


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